3 Employees Fired From Norman Vet Center After Death Investigation

Tuesday, December 23rd 2014, 6:55 pm

Three people have been fired from the Norman Veterans Center for abuse and neglect after authorities launched an investigation into the death of a Korean War Vet.

One other employee may also lose their job after an upcoming pre-termination hearing.

James Laughlin, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran, died back in October after reports say he got into a fight with another resident. Five and a half hours later he was found lying next to his bed with a head injury and later died at the hospital. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head.

“This should never have happened,” said his widow, Joan Laughlin.

Joan Laughlin says there are a long list of things that should have happened that night but didn't, including immediate medical help for her husband after he was discovered bleeding from a head injury.

“I said, ‘Have you called an ambulance?' And she said, ‘Oh no. Do you want me to send him to the ER?' And I said, ‘I certainly do''' recalled Laughlin.

The Oklahoma Veterans Affairs launched an investigation into Laughlin's death. A Discharge notice for one of the employees that was fired says video footage shows her abusing him. It reads after the original fight, Laughlin "was dragged about 20 feet across the room and roughly lifted with you holding him by the back of his pants, heaving him onto the couch. Video shows you then sat on the resident and held down his arms restraining him. You continued to sit on him for approximately 4 minutes."

“He was neglected and abused and if they had taken care of him and got him help, emergency help he would be here today,” said Laughlin.

A spokesperson for the Oklahoma Veterans Affairs says residents are their top priority and that they don't tolerate this type of behavior. That's why those employees were terminated. Joan however, says she's still worried about the 50 other Veterans still at the center.

“If they could let that happen to him, what's going to happen to those other guys that's up there? It's just eating me up. I think about it all the time.”

The Cleveland County District attorney is still deciding if criminal charges will be filed.